August 29 News Items

Three California Firms Among 16 Winning NASA Small Business Research Awards (Source: NASA)
NASA has selected 16 small business projects to address important research and technology needs. The "Phase-2" awards are part of NASA's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. Three California-based companies/projects include: Hawthorne-based Systems Technology, Inc., for Aeroelastic Uncertainty Analysis Toolbox; Torrance-based Innosense, LLC, for Process-Hardened, Multi-Analyte Sensor for Characterizing Rocket Plum Constituents Under Test Environment; and San Diego-based Space Micro, Inc., for Low Power Universal Direct Conversion Transmit and Receive (UTR) RF Module for Software Defined Radios. (8/28)

California Wildfire Threatens JPL (Source: On Orbit)
On Orbit reports that a wildfire in California over the weekend was getting dangerously close to the NASA/CalTech Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Click here for more information and photos. (8/28)

Landsat 5 Back In Service After Taking a Tumble (Source: Space News)
The U.S. government's aging Landsat 5 Earth observation satellite was recertified for operations Aug. 17 after inexplicably tumbling out of its operating orbit Aug. 13, a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) spokesman said Aug. 26. The USGS is still investigating the cause of the anomaly, and one possibility is that it was struck by debris during the annual Perseid meteor shower that peaked around that time, spokesman Ron Beck said in an interview. (8/29)

Turksat Seeking Proposals For Turksat 4A Satellite (Source: Space News)
Turkey's national telecommunications satellite operator, Turksat, will issue a request for bids for a Turksat 4A satellite in the coming weeks and expects to select a manufacturer by the end of 2009, with a launch planned for 2011, Turksat Director-General Ozkan Dalbay said. (8/29)

Bankruptcy Court Sets Protostar Auction Dates (Source: Space News)
The Delaware Bankruptcy Court, which is overseeing startup satellite services provider ProtoStar Ltd.'s Chapter 11 case, has set an Oct. 8 deadline for initial bids from parties seeking to purchase the ProtoStar 1 and ProtoStar 2 telecommunications satellites. An open auction of ProtoStar's assets is scheduled for Oct. 14 at the New York offices of law firm Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP. (8/29)

U.S. Air Force Seeks Input On Laser Comm Demo Sat (Source: Space News)
The U.S. Air Force is seeking input from industry by Oct. 2 about the feasibility of building a demonstration satellite that would use lasers to transmit information between space and the ground, according to a posting on a U.S. government procurement Web site. (8/29)

Intelsat Given Go-Ahead to Bypass Sea Launch for 3 Planned Launches (Source: Space News)
The U.S. court handling the Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings of commercial launch provider Sea Launch Co. has granted Intelsat's request to modify three launch contracts to permit Intelsat to bypass Sea Launch and deal directly with Sea Launch's Russian partner. Intelsat is one of several commercial satellite operators including EchoStar, Eutelsat and Sirius XM Radio that have been petitioning the Delaware Bankruptcy Court to force Sea Launch to formally assume or reject their launch service agreements. Both options are available to Sea Launch now that it is under the court's protection. Sea Launch has been resisting its customers' demands, saying it needs more time to sort through its financial prospects before it decides which contracts it will honor, and which will be scuttled. (8/29)

Aerojet Looking to Restart Production of NK-33 Engine for Taurus-2 (Source: Space News)
Aerojet is in talks with Russian propulsion firms to restart production of the Soviet-era NK-33 rocket engine that the Sacramento, Calif.-based propulsion company is modernizing for use on Orbital Sciences' Taurus 2 medium-lift rocket. The two companies are also considering initiating a new production line in the United States. The engines would power the Taurus 2 launch vehicle in the U.S. The liquid oxygen and kerosene engines originally designed for Russia's abandoned Moon program were acquired by Aerojet in the 1990s and more recently redesignated AJ26-62 for use on Taurus 2.

Today, Aerojet has 37 NK-33 engines in the United States, and owns the rights to additional surplus inventory in Russia. Aerojet says there are ample NK-33s in the U.S. and Russia to support Orbital's Taurus-2 commitments to NASA. The Russians, on the other hand, are looking at more near-term scenarios, she said. Industry sources say Russia is interested in restarting NK-33 production to power its Soyuz rockets. (8/29)

White House to Rule on NPOESS Management Changes in September (Source: Space News)
The White House by Sept. 26 will decide on proposed changes to a troubled weather satellite program that include assigning management responsibility for the tri-agency effort to either NASA or the U.S. Air Force, according to government sources. According to a congressional source, Shere Abbott, associate director of environment in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, is leading a panel that seeks to make changes in time to influence the 2011 budget. The source was reading from a July 28 memo from John Holdren, White House science adviser and director of that office, to senior leaders of the agencies managing the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite (NPOESS) program. (8/29)

India Loses Contact With Moon Probe, Suffers Blow to Space Ambitions (Source: AFP)
India's first moon mission, launched amid much fanfare last year, came to an abrupt end Saturday after the country's lunar craft lost contact with its controllers. India launched an unmanned satellite and put a probe on the moon's surface late last year in an event that the national space agency hoped would give the country international "brand recognition" in the lunar business. The landing of the probe vaulted the country into the league of space-faring nations led by the U.S. and regional neighbours Russia, China and Japan and was seen as a symbolic and proud moment in the country's development. "The mission is definitely over. We have lost contact with the spacecraft," project director M. Annadurai said. (8/29)

Shuttle Discovery Lifts Off for ISS (Source: RIA Novosti)
The Discovery space shuttle finally lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida after bad weather and technical problems caused previous launch attempts to be scrubbed. Discovery blasted off at 11:59 p.m. local time on Friday for the International Space Station. The shuttle with its seven-person crew is commanded by veteran astronaut Rick Sturckow. It is due to deliver supplies, including fitness equipment and the Leonardo supply module, to the ISS. U.S. astronaut Tim Kopra, who has been part of the ISS crew since July, will be replaced by U.S. astronaut Nicole Stott. (8/29)

'Moon Rock' given to Holland by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin is Fake (Source: Daily Telegraph)
A moon rock given to the Dutch prime minister by Apollo 11 astronauts in 1969 has turned out to be a fake. Curators at Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum, where the rock has attracted tens of thousands of visitors each year, discovered that the "lunar rock", valued at £308,000, was in fact petrified wood. Xandra van Gelder, who oversaw the investigation, said the museum would continue to keep the stone as a curiosity. "It's a good story, with some questions that are still unanswered," she said. "We can laugh about it." The rock was given to Willem Drees, a former Dutch leader, during a global tour by Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin following their moon mission 50 years ago.

J. William Middendorf, the former American ambassador to the Netherlands, made the presentation to Mr Drees and the rock was then donated to the Rijksmuseum after his death in 1988. "I do remember that Drees was very interested in the little piece of stone. But that it's not real, I don't know anything about that," Mr Middendorf said. Nasa gave moon rocks to more than 100 countries following lunar missions in 1969 and the 1970s. The United States Embassy in The Hague is carrying out an investigation into the affair. (8/28)

Private Companies Compete for Google Lunar X Prize (Source: New American)
The recent launch of South Korea’s Naro-1 rocket marked the emergence of the 10th nation with the capacity to launch payloads to orbit. But several private corporations — including SpaceX and Virgin Galactic — have been redefining the role of private corporations in the opening of the next frontier. Now, a growing number of private companies pursuing the Google Lunar X Prize are demonstrating that space exploration is not just for governments any more. The conditions of the Google Lunar X Prize competition are easy to summarize, but profoundly challenging to complete:

The Google Lunar X PRIZE is a $30 million international competition to safely land a robot on the surface of the Moon, travel 500 meters over the lunar surface, and send images and data back to the Earth. Teams must be at least 90 percent privately funded and must be registered to compete by December 31, 2010. The first team to land on the Moon and complete the mission objectives will be awarded $20 million; the full first prize is available until December 31, 2012. After that date, the first prize will drop to $15 million. The second team to do so will be awarded $5 million. Another $5 million will awarded in bonus prizes. The final deadline for winning the prize is December 31, 2014. (8/28)

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